Review: Tarnsman of Gor

Thanks to spending most of last night and today sick in bed, I had a chance to read the Tarnsman of Gor book I found at a used bookstore yesterday. In case you’re not familiar with this book, here’s the synopsis.

Tarl Cabot has always believed himself to be a citizen of Earth. He has no inkling that his destiny is far greater than the small planet he has inhabited for the first twenty-odd years of his life. One frosty winter night in the New England woods, he finds himself transported to the planet of Gor, also known as Counter-Earth, where everything is dramatically different from anything he has ever experienced. It emerges that Tarl is to be trained as a Tarnsman, one of the most honored positions in the rigid, caste-bound Gorean society. He is disciplined by the best teachers and warriors that Gor has to offer…but to what end?

This is the first book of John Norman’s popular and controversial Gorean Saga, a series of novels the author began in 1967 with Tarnsman of Gor and are now considered cult classics.

Now, if you’re looking for profound literature, keep on going. You won’t find it here.

That being said, I thought it was a fairly decent read. I knew going into it that it wouldn’t be a masterpiece.

It was much different than I assumed based on the Erotica>BDSM and Horror>Dark Fantasy classifications I’ve seen online. If those were accurate, I don’t think I could have made it though to the end! I guess if you’re throughly vanilla, the idea of a culture where pleasure slaves even exist would be pretty shocking, but (spoiler alert) anyone that fantasizes about sexual dominance will find it extremely tame.

It is a very male dominated society. There are only two female characters who are discussed in any detail in this book. Neither of them are ever pleasure slaves, and they both end the book as “Free Companions” (married, basically).

There are a couple of scenes where Talena, the main female character, offers her submission; she even begs for a branding. You might find that intriguing– until you realize it’s all a farce to gain the upper hand. I was surprised given the reputation of this series.

Now, I’m a big sci-fi nerd. As an adventure story set in an undiscovered planet with giant, semi-tamed animals and a group of rulers who may or may not be gods and shape the course of world events, that also has themes of D/s, I could definitely appreciate it. As a guidebook for a power exchange lifestyle, not so much. But I hear that author, John Norman, delves into that more in subsequent books. We’ll see.

All in all, it was a pretty decent way to spend a sick day.